Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressman William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, appeared in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Va. late Friday to watch federal prosecutors and his defense lawyers tangle over legal motions leading up to his scheduled bribery racketeering and money laundering trial.
Jefferson, who was indicted for allegedly taking bribes relating to business dealings in Africa, sat silently beside his lawyers as they tried to get some of the 16 counts against him thrown out.
"There can be no bribery if he was not engaged in official acts," argued his lawyer Amy Berman Jackson.
"The conduct may be reprehensible, it may be distasteful, it may violate House rules, but it does not violate a statute," Jackson argued. She said Congressmen use their influence to assist constituents all the time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lytle argued accepting things of value in exchange for using their influence is what the bribery laws are all about.
U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis seemed unpersuaded by the defense arguments, but issued no rulings Thursday.
Ellis prompted chuckles throughout the courtroom when he gently admonished attorneys for both sides for referring to the $90,000 discovered in a freezer in an FBI raid on Jefferson's home as "cold, hard cash".
"We don't need to refer to cold and hard cash, the judge said.
Ellis said he would schedule additional pre-trial motions, but did not do so Friday.
As a smiling relaxed Congressman Jefferson left the courthouse he declined to speak to reporters or to indicate whether he intended to attend further such pre-trial sessions.
Jefferson's trial is scheduled to being on January 16 of next year.
- CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden